Friday, August 28, 2009

It's not about making adjustments

Mark Galli, referring to a recent book by a non-believer arguing that religion does more good than harm, summarizes its thesis thus: "religion helps people live happier and healthier lives by giving them meaning and purpose; and it benefits society enormously, by establishing food closets and hospitals and rescue missions and what not." Galli thinks we should be wary of such praise. From "A Pretty Good Religion."
Unfortunately for fans of religion, the Christian gospel is not primarily interested in religion. To be sure, the New Testament talks about religion. It discourages sexual license and other forms of immorality. It encourages patience, kindness, and other virtues. It tells believers how to worship aright. ....

But this sort of thing, religion, does not stand at the heart of the New Testament message. The gospel isn't primarily about helping individuals to live the life they've always wanted; it tells people to die to their yearning for self-fulfillment. It is not about helping people feel good about themselves, but telling them that they are dying. It's not about improving people, but killing the old self and creating them anew. It's not about helping people make space for spirituality in their busy lives, but about a God who would obliterate all our private space. The gospel is not about getting people to cooperate with God in making the world a better place—to give it a fresh coat of paint, to remodel it; instead it announces God's plan to raze the present world order and build something utterly new.

In short, religion is about making adjustments, making the best of things, inviting God to play a part in our lives and community, and the pursuit of spirituality! The gospel says our lives and our world are catastrophes, beyond tinkering, beyond remodeling. The gospel is about the Cross, which puts a nail in the coffin of religion as such. And the gospel is about resurrection—not an improvement nor an adjustment, but the breaking in of a completely new life because the old life has been obliterated.

The gospel's harsh judgment should make us quiver in fear; its unrealistic demands should make us sigh in despair; its surprising grace should leave us astonished in wonder; its unexpected hope should cause us to collapse in joyful laughter. It should leave fans of religion and sociologists of religion dumbfounded. It should make common people either run from Christianity in fear and trembling, or fall at Jesus' feet and clutch his ankles, saying, "My Lord and My God!" .... [more]
A Pretty Good Religion | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

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